Who is Milton’s Satan?

In Anne Paolucci’s “Dante’s Satan and Milton’s “Byronic Hero”” (1964), she argues that Dante and Milton’s characterization of Satan are more alike than the superficial physical descriptions would imply and that to truly understand both characters, the reader must look at them as both the conclusion of all that has been represented before and as a change from what has come before.

Paolucci begins her argument by contrasting the two characterizations; that Dante portrays Satan as something “sub-human” (141) and grotesque while Milton’s is portrayed as still retaining his angelic form; Dante’s Satan rarely speaks, and is portrayed as having no redeeming features, while Milton shows Satan’s eloquence and his similarities to a tragic “Greek hero” (144). Paolucci’s illustrates that while both characterizations seem superficially different, the characters in fact both suffer from immense rage at the fact that they “cannot undo the consequences of rebellion against God” (145) and that both are condemned to be rulers in Hell when they know what a pale comparison it is to Heaven’s majesty and she does this in order to make clear that both characterizations require the reader to bring to the table all their knowledge of the character of Satan and that it is impossible to view either in a vacuum. Paolucci establishes immediately that her audience is meant to be one that is familiar with both Dante and Milton’s portrayal and the criticisms of both in her reference to T.S Eliot’s observations on both.

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